The Paper

Directed by Aaron Matthews

78 minutes / Color
Release: 2007
Copyright: 2007

By chronicling for a year the publication of Penn State University's Daily Collegian—one of the nation's leading student newspapers, with a 200-person staff and a circulation rivaling that of many small-town newspapers—this documentary reveals the many challenges and issues with which young journalists must contend.

film still

These range from ethical considerations, sensitizing reporters and editors to diversity issues, and dealing with circulation woes, to struggling for access to news sources and, above all, trying to determine whether they should be informing or entertaining their readers. Utilizing a cinéma-vérité style, THE PAPER follows the editors and reporters of The Daily Collegian through their everyday routines, sits in on editorial meetings, follows reporters as they cover stories, attends classroom sessions where new reporters are trained, and interviews staff members about their particular frustrations and disappointments.

film still

Interweaving the drama of pressure-cooker journalism with the energy and idealism of young people, THE PAPER explores the media from the fresh perspective of tomorrow's journalists. But the young reporters' dilemmas and decisions raise complicated questions about the role of the press in society. Do you lure readers by entertaining them or offering hard news? How can the media deliver the news when obstructed by wary public officials and misleading public relations campaigns? What is the media's responsibility to serve the public interest in all its diversity?

"An absolute must-see for any student journalist and any person interested in the workings of news media!" —ShortEnd Magazine

"What we see at the Collegian is a resonant microcosm: This paper's crucible is every paper's." —The Boston Globe

"An excellent, astonishing documentary… I can't recommend this film enough." —Patricia Ethelwyn Lang, Feminist Review

An insightful, funny, and thought-provoking microcosmic look at contemporary journalism… Consistently engaging… Highly recommended!" —Randy Pitman, Video Librarian

Other Ways to Watch

Colleges, Universities, Government Agencies, Hospitals, and Corporations

Purchase DVD for $348.00

Available for educational streaming from:


Aaron Matthews
A co-production of Aaron Matthews and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Select Accolades

  • 2007 Maryland Film Festival
  • 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston
  • 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival
  • 2007 Atlanta Film Festival


A behind-the-scenes look at the rivalry between the Arab world's two main TV networks - Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

Nordin Lasfar | 2012 | 48 minutes | Color | English subtitles

A survey of journalists working in various media and languages around the world, as they grapple with their relationships to government, and the dangers of speaking truth to power.

Calvin Skaggs | 2006 | 114 minutes | Color | English subtitles

A couple starts their own newspaper in rural Russia... which lands them in danger.

Eline Flipse | 2012 | 58 minutes | Color | Russian | English subtitles